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Everything posted by martincath

  1. It's a government town so a lot of folks work 9-5ish; with a very mild climate even by Canadian standards, Victoria also attracts a lot of retirees; but it's also a university town, so a lot of youngsters need venues to party hearty into the wee small hours so while I've often used phrases like 'roll up the sidewalks at night' myself it's a bit tongue-in-cheek! There's plenty of nightlife and much of the downtown area is very attractive, with many buildings well-lit at night so it's totally worth a wander about for photos even if you don't actually buy tickets to go to anything. Even very touristy sites rarely extend their hours much beyond 5pm however, so the vast majority of ticketed attractions like museums, historic houses & gardens are shut down for the night by 6pm or earlier. Exceptions: Butchart Gardens know which side their bread is buttered on, so they not only light up the gardens at night but even allow cruise buses to come after they have officially closed to the public during shoulder seasons. So you can usually get a Butchart excursion from your cruiseline, even if the timing is late enough that local independent shuttles don't work for you - though it will cost you a fair bit of a markup over doing it yourself. The Royal BC Museum stays open later on Fridays and Saturdays in summer, until 10pm - it's an excellent museum and well worth visiting if it is open on your dates. Buskers will be there to entertain you in the Inner Harbour almost any cruise night. The Empress Hotel's 'afternoon' tea gets extended to the point of ludicrousness in cruise season, I've seen them take bookings until after 9pm! Shops on Government Street also tend to run later hours on cruise days, so you'll be able to pick up souvenirs and snacks. Bus tours will definitely be available, as will carriage rides - just watch out for the latter as any 'carriage' ride that isn't at least triple-digits in cost is almost certainly one of the huge trolleys that seat about 25 people on what's basically a trailer with a roof. If you're on one of those the outside person on each row can see, but everyone else is looking through other pax - except the front row whose view is blocked by not just a raised seat for the driver but also a literal horses ass 😉
  2. Cali Coastals tend to be Spring & Fall, to let the lines repo their ships into and out of Vancouver for Alaska cruise season. That timing of course brings with it more potential for weather... but at the end of the day if you're sensitive to motion sickness you bring an appropriate treatment, as you can never guarantee ANY spot on any sea will not be rough or smooth. I wouldn't let the potential for statistically-slightly-worse sea conditions than your typical non-hurricane-season Caribbean cruise impact your choice whether or not to do the cruise, instead I'd be deciding whether the places I most wanted to see were visited for long enough or at all compared to doing a road trip - it's a beautiful drive, and there are plenty of good bits of California that are way too far from the coast to be visited by a ship.
  3. Best is subjective. You've already spotted almost all of the possible options, and all the sensible ones (you could fly, but that's kaching, or take a ferry to Victoria then another to Vancovuer but that's also kaching and extremely slow!) QuickShuttle IMO are the worst value option, but they are the most convenient for pier or airport - that convenience comes at a price! A cab to where you can bard Amtrak or Bolt or Greyhound would run maybe $20, probably even less in Uber/Lyft. Enterprise as always will pick you up, other car rentals not so much but cabs to their nearest offices would be less than getting to the bus or train, and yes you can book a one-way car rental - you don't even have to worry about whether it's an American or Canadian plate on the car. Rates vary wildly, especially far in advance for cars - once cruise season picks up you can find ridiculous bargains at short notice, but in April you might need to shop around all rental companies and look for one which has no drop fee, as someone else who wants to book to bring the car 'home' is more likely into May when cruises are much more frequent. Still, there's a good chance that by splitting the cost of the car among your group of 2+ it works out cheaper than any other option except Bolt, and it's definitely the most flexible since you can choose any time you like and any route you like. Use whichever company is cheapest - odds are the prices will vary a lot on any given day so restricting yourself only to an office that will come and pick you up would risk missing out on a discount that saves a lot more than cab fare to the cheapest one. The nicest way to go is Amtrak - but the train, not the buses! The buses are almost as overpriced as QS, and if you get an actual Amtrak bus are the worst on the road for age and quality - though a buddy whose fiancee got a job in Seattle so he's been bussing down a lot tells me that Amtrak seem to be chartering Cantrail coaches most of the time and these are in good shape. The train is however still cheaper than the bus at $33pp (no Saver tickets on buses) and has by FAR the nicest border crossing of any possible method - you don't even stop going Northbound, but instead get processed only on arrival at Vancouver Pacific Central Station. Southbound you get precleared by CBP before boarding, but there's also a token stop at the border for CBP to run dogs along the train and hassle a few 'random' passengers with extra questions, usually takes just a few minutes. Only downside is lack of frequency - just two trains a day and the morning one leaves too early to board it after a cruise. In April the nicer scenery from the train (tracks run nearer the coast than I5 does) becomes redundant on the evening train not long after leaving, as the sun sets long before arrival in Vancouver. Cheapest way is Bolt bus, if you can score one of the $1 fares you simply cannot beat the value - and even their regular price tends to be about half that of Amtrak buses at about $20pp. Probably 3 daily departures next April, first might be too early for you to make though, and they have fewer stops than anyone else so are usually fastest of the buses. All buses though have the issue of a border stop where if one person gets extra questions you all have to wait around until they are accepted or rejected, so the theoretically-faster-than-the-train route has more border variability than any other method - in your car you can choose which border crossing to take but the buses are stuck with just their one.
  4. Most bakeries, cafes, and even sammich and coffee shops in the city sell Nanaimo bars (unless the bakery is heavily marketing themselves as a specific ethnic style or are obviously super froo-froo with nothing but macarons and patisserie in the window). I wouldn't go looking for them specifically, instead wherever you're heading to for sightseeing just check out the coffee places and bakeries you pass - if you just want to sample what they're like at minimal expense then hit the first supermarket you see, probably Urban Fare or Nesters depending if you head up toward Stanley Park or down into Gastown respectively. I'm afraid that between my diabetes and the ludicrous amount of sugar in a Nanaimo bar it's not something I can give you a personal opinion on whether there's a noticeable difference in taste between different suppliers!
  5. I also think Bruce's suggestion is spot-on - 2 hours in advance is a solid baseline for US-bound flights. The only reasons to modify that would be if you have Global Entry or NEXUS, when you could bump it to 90mins even if you have checked bags with minimal risk, or if it's a very busy cruise day - an awful lot of folks, especially on a weekday cruise arrival, head straight to the airport due to lack of vacation days for our US cousins so if there are 3 or 4 ships in port things could get very messy at check-in, bag drop and security. If it's this year, check the port schedule here - if it's next year, bookmark that page and check it again in March when the new schedule should be listed. If it's a 3 or 4 ship day (or even a 2 ship day with one of the monster ships like NCL Bliss/Joy, RCCL Oasis), if you don't have GE/NEXUS then I'd be inclined to edge it closer to the official YVR recommendation of 3 hours pre-flight, especially if it's your April Hawaii cruise in your signature as that's very early in the season so there's always a learning curve as airport staff learn to handle cruisers again!
  6. I agree with Ell - Victoria's is not really a 'visit by itself' kind of Chinatown; there may be a lot of history but in the present it's extremely small! Personally I'd walk everywhere in Victoria - there's a pleasant suburban area, James Bay, between the pier and the inner harbour or else you can follow the water pretty much the whole way around and go via Fisherman's wharf. If walking a couple of miles isn't feasible for you, take a cab - shuttles are horribly overpriced for all cruiselines in Victoria, so even if it's just the two of you you will save money and get dropped exactly where you want. You could also consider the little ferries - the Chinatown dock is just a couple of blocks away from Chinatown itself. Depending how old grandson is, you could stop into one of the oldest brewpubs on the way to or from as well, Swans on Pandora & Store - it's the one place I always visit when in Victoria! 😉
  7. Ah, that would explain it - I had assumed you were cruising this fall so I found it very odd that just a month or so out the rental agencies didn't have any bargains. Almost a year ahead car rental availability may as well be a black hole, especially for one-way trips let alone cross-border - keep checking closer to the date and you'll get much more sensible quotes and also a better chance of no-drop-fee rates as the franchisees start to figure out how many matching one-way rentals they are looking at (i.e. how many folks want to go Montreal airport to Quebec City and vice versa for yourself). Another good trick is to make use of airport-to-airport one-way rentals - they seem much more amenable to no drop fees, and those usually more than offsets the cost of a cab to the airport from downtown. As long as you book refundable options you can definitely have plans in place that are tolerably-priced months ahead, and then check again about the 3 month, 1 month, and right before you cruise again to see if there are better deals.
  8. The biggest potential issue would be why your incoming flight is so late that you miss the cruise and want to trigger Plan B. If it's mechanical/airline staff strike/weather issues at your starting airport that resolve by later same day then arriving so late you miss the cruise but could still potentially get a ferry or floatplane/chopper over to Victoria even the next day remains viable, unless it's a RT Vancouver route (you'd then be in breach of our equivalent of the PVSA, the Coastwise Trade Act which stops foreign flag ships moving people between different Canadian ports). If it's a one-way to any other country, including the US, you'd still be starting in Canada so Plan B of getting on in Victoria works on paper. The Victoria stop being next also means no US Preclearance in Vancouver, so no problem with everyone else being 'in the USA' but you having to do immigration on arrival on a Coastal or Hawaii cruise for example. But what if it's a regional weather issue here? Anything that grounds planes at YVR will almost certainly mean no ferries either, they stop far more often than flights at YVR are suspended - and floatplanes and choppers also stop flying long before weather impacts jets at YVR. Overall, assuming you have a flight early in the day you have a very low risk of things going pear-shaped enough you miss a 7:30pm cruise; the lines do book people to arrive same-day every single time for ships leaving at 4/5pm and while it's not unheard of for folks to miss their ship it's still very rare - YVR is very rarely hit by extreme weather of any kind. Your Plan B is also very feasible - as would be Plan C, if you can get to Seattle you may be able to then fly to YYJ or take the Clipper to downtown Victoria - in the event that you have an issue that's pretty much anything except extreme weather in this neck of the woods. So overall I'd rank this as similar to booking a flight back home before noon after your cruise - the odds of one big problem or a series of smaller problems that add up to you missing it are very, very low... but since you do have your entire vacation at risk if things go wrong on the way to Vancouver I'd still be inclined not to take the risk personally!
  9. Without knowing your dates I can't verify how many companies in Quebec City have available one-way cross-border rentals, but I'm very surprised that only a single car is available - maybe a lot of folks on your cruise already booked them all!!! If you have a large group that needs a Minivan or full-size SUV that might restrict choices significantly - but even $282 a day would probably be a bargain for a big group of people compared to a cruiseline excursion. Costco, if you are a member, or Kayak if you are not, will let you compare all rental companies in a given city pretty efficiently, and while it's very possible that there would be drop fee involved at a minor airport across the border if you were considering touring around for a few days look at Boston/NYC area airports too where there's much more competition both for flights and car rentals. If you're restricting your choice to one company because you have points, this would be a circumstance where casting your net wider could pay off in leaps & bounds - each fleet has to get their own cars back to their 'home' country even though it's now legal for Canadians to drive US-licensed rentals back into Canada, so it's utterly random who has the most need to move those cars thus who's offering the best deals. An in-province rental will be cheaper and definitely much more available, even for a one-way - in fact Montreal-Quebec City is one of the popular free car 'rental' routes in Canada (rather than pay for a truck or hiring a driver, rental agencies cut deals all the way down to $0 plus a free tank of gas and full CDW insurance for Joe Public to drive cars back to where they want them - the downside is lack of much advance notice, but if you check e.g. Transfer Car close to when you're cruising you might get lucky). Yes, Princess and the other lines make it simple - but simplicity comes at a price 😉
  10. If you can manage to walk from where you get your luggage to the street, you'll already have covered significantly further than you still need to go. The hotel is literally just across the street, so even with the pretty wide sidewalks on Canada Place maybe 30 yards away. If you behave yourselves and cross at an official pedestrian crossing you'll probably multiply that by four...
  11. If it's not booked, consider changing your plans entirely... yes, Montreal is a better airport for US flights than Quebec City, but those cruiseline bus tours are enormously overpriced and lack flexibility. If instead you hired a car (or took the probably-even-cheaper Orleans Express bus), you could: a) choose exactly when you go to the Airport, thus maximizing your time in Montreal; b) save a chunk of cash unless you're a solo traveler (I'm guessing not from your use of 'our cruise' above); c) if you do actually want to see Montreal do it right, add at least one overnight stay (paid for by the savings between the cruise tour and a rental car or bus) and then you can also book a flight at whatever time of day you like without any worries; d) choose a totally different airport if you're only going to Montreal because they have better flight options rather than because you want to see Montreal - e.g. drive over the border instead, fly out of Burlington VT which is only ~45mins extra drive time on paper but avoids the major traffic of the Montreal area, and due to no Canadian border-crossing by plane you will save time and likely money on the ticket, and you add JetBlue to the list of available airlines for potentially more savings...
  12. Those are decent Victoria times alright, better than most - but that long in Victoria just means even more hours that have to get sliced out of the Alaskan ports, and I doubt that Victoria is deemed more important than any actual AK ports by more than a handful of cruisers, delightful as it is to play English Expat Retiree Poker (RP accent, blue rinse, hat, pearls, and gloves = Full House). The beer scene is better than the entire state of Alaska's of course, but even I have difficulty justifying a long day in Vic on a 7 day cruise for that reason!!! 😉
  13. Just to put things in perspective Zepp - Karen is totally right that Vancouver *can* be a nightmare to embark, but there are various factors that tend to combine to make it that way... so if you remove all or even just some of those factors it's only minutes worse than Seattle (due to the extra step of US immigration Preclearance it will always have one more required Thing To Do before you can board). Those factors are firstly how many ships in port that day, how early in the season, how large are the ships, and what time you choose to board at (all of these you have control over); secondly whether US CBP are being annoying or not (outwith your control, but basically they sometimes understaff the pier - and with CBP reallocated to the southern border at this time, and the reputational impact of poor staffing at the pier falling on Vancouver despite how unfair that is, calls to congress people to complain about CBP are much less likely if they pull staff away here than, say, from International arrivals at a major US airport). Basically avoid 3 or 4 ship days in May and the majority of the stars align for you. Unless you are doing a unique route that only runs in May, you can easily avoid the issue of new minions at the pier each season, plus even the experienced staff have to relearn procedures and adapt to potential changes in them. Avoid a 3 or 4 ship day and you will find that the maximum number of people rolling in even at peak boarding times is vastly reduced. Avoid peak boarding hours and no matter how busy a given day gets you will never wait as long as the poor schmucks who show up noonish to 1ish. There have also been significant improvements at Canada Place over the last 4 years or so to improve flow - getting it ready to handle four ship days after Ballantyne pier closed means that if you arrive even on a three ship day it's a noticeably faster experience than it was five years ago, and on 1/2 shippers it's positively sprightly. The immigration kiosks also help a LOT with the biggest out-of-your-control factor - these are the same as the ones at airports all over US & Canada, so anyone who's a citizen of either country now has a long row of kiosks to interact with instead of just the much-more-limited number of manned CBP desks (and regardless of how few CBP agents show up on a given day, the kiosks are always all there!) Since we prefer Alaska in May, we tend to be at risk of serious delays embarking - after the first 3 ship day we foolishly tried to board in time for our 'free' MDR lunch (which means getting there by 1:30pm on Princess) and ended up spending ~3hours from curb to cabin we reassessed our options! As soon as we started embarking as late as possible instead we've been 30mins or less every time - even on 3 ship days. Most recently, as Azamara did give us free booze, my wife insisted on abandoning our S.O.P. and instead going for the 'as early as possible' arrival this year so we showed up at 10am - as I expected we had to sit around waiting until 11am before we were allowed to start flowing through the various stages, but then it was 20mins until we were onboard the ship once we did start moving. Beat the crowds by showing up by 10:30am and you should generally find the same, with nobody getting to move until CBSA finish clearing everyone off the incoming ships but then a fast, smooth process after that for something in the 60-90 minutes total time. Plus of course at the end of the day, even if Vancouver did take you an extra hour to board at compared to Seattle, it's time well-spent if you've ever lived through the utter gong show that is immigration in San Francisco, Astoria, even LA at times on a cruise ship - and I can't even imagine how bad it would be trying to get CBP to staff up Ketchikan, Skagway etc. to efficiently process folks on arrival!!! Not having to waste time with a 4-6 hour technical stop in Victoria from (all too frequently) 6-8pm to midnight generally means having longer in other ports for Vancouver RTs vs Seattle. For us local types familiarity might breed contempt, so Seattle can appear more desirable simply because we see it less often - but for a visitor we're also much better to spend Pre or Post cruise time in 😉 And if you are interested in Victoria, do it right - even long port days are a weaksauce way to see the Island, with not even enough time to really do the city itself justice! Instead tag on a Pre or Post-cruise trip by flying in or out of YYJ - or taking the Clipper to or from Seattle if you have better flight options out of SEA - and spending at least a night or two. It's a nice place, but not when you might have less than 4 hours time in port and most stuff except touristy shops is shut!!!
  14. Then I'd suggest that you check out TripAdvisor for comparative reviews and availability on your actual dates, and then use Google Maps to verify the exact hotel location to ensure you don't inadvertently book a room outside the downtown core by mistake (e.g. 3 Pinnacle hotels, 1 of which is in North Vancouver; while the majority of actually-in-Vancouver hotels are located downtown there are a handful scattered around the suburbs, e.g. Best Western, Coast and Days Inn have both core and 'burbs locations while the only Hiltons, despite two having 'Vancouver' in their name, are all in neighbouring municipalities and not in Vancouver at all). But literally ANY hotel in the downtown core is convenient for the pier - your absolute worst case is dropping $15 on the meter for a cab with luggage on embarkation day, and since you are looking at a 2 night stay if you restrict yourself to hotels right next to the pier you are missing out on the chance of a hotel which is closer to other sites that you may spend much more time at... if you plan to spend lots of time in Stanley Park for example it would be much more efficient to stay e.g. at the Westin Bayshore - which has view rooms galore and even more conveniently-walkable restaurants than the PP or either Fairmont by the pier. Personally I'd rather blow cash on dinner than a hotel, as long as it's clean and safe with a comfy bed and appropriate temperature control I really couldn't care less about other features - so the YWCA Hotel remains my go-to recommendation for anyone who wouldn't be ashamed to say that they 'stayed at the Y'! Great location, and by next year they will have almost doubled their rooms with the new tower available to book, so the already-excellent reviews will only get better thanks to the super-shiny brand-new rooms. If money is no object, great, book the Pacific Rim or Shangri-La and get pampered in the only five-star hotels in the city, but unless you actually make use of the added facilities it's a waste to pay for them - so figure out what you actually *need* from your hotel and factor that in. If a nice view is the only 'upgrade' that matters to you for example, Blue Horizon is much cheaper than the fancier pier hotels, very tall, with large corner rooms giving extensive views - and gets a lot of love from cruisers on these boards.
  15. Personally I'd be inclined to book airfare and cruise separately, unless there's a heckuva deal on for cruiseline air. Depending where you are in the UK you may have viable options out of regional airports - GLA and MAN have nonstop flights to YVR in season so can be more convenient than London airports for folks who don't live near the capitol, and Icelandair have a very slick transfer process at Keflavik airport that makes them usually the shortest one-stop total time in the air between UK regional airports and the North American ones that they serve (much of my family is in SW Scotland/NW England, and we've found MAN and the train or GLA via KEF and someone picking us up are by far the most efficient options for us). Of course if you're a Londoner or thereabouts, you have a few non-stop options close by! As to the cruise portion, are you definitely wanting to do Celebrity? Not that any cruise into Alaska won't have gorgeous scenery of course, but if you're open to Princess or HAL you'll find more options - especially options with Glacier Bay. Hubbard and Tracy both suffer from 'not getting close enough due to things outside cruiseline control' way more often than GB, which is almost 100% visited - and has multiple glaciers, so the odds of getting a really good photo are increased. FWIW I think doing a 7 day RT out of Vancouver is far superior than Seattle - scenery every day, including the true inside passage all the way up & down (NB: except of Royal Princess, which is to be avoided if you are there for the scenery not the ship - it's too big and unwieldy to be allowed in the BC Inside Passage so spends even more time out in the middle of nowhere than ships doing RT Seattle do!) With 10 days total, definitely take a couple of days precruise to give you the best chance to be fully adjusted before you get on the ship. Ballpark most folks adjust by 2-3 hours a day when going West, so if you have 2 nights here then after your first night on the ship you should be awake at regular brekky time locally. We have pretty long evenings in Vancouver so even if you're still sleeping in a couple of hours late here, you can do things like Capilano/Grouse Mountain/parks that stay open late in the evenings and still have enough time to see the more '9-5'ish ticketed places in late morning & afternoons. EDIT - oh, and since this comes up a fair bit, if you are flying into Canada you will need an eTA in advance (assuming you are a UK citizen; if not check your citizenship against the list of requirements on this page) and of course unless you already visited the USA recently enough an ESTA too.
  16. PDX is our second 'home' airport and by far the nicest one in the whole US of A. It's also pretty compact, and you can get from any gate to any other without needing to go back through Security - on foot your worst case would be <15mins between the furthest-possible gates, so I'd be very comfortable making a connection there in 45mins. Of course if you do have the option of a longer layover take it purely so you can enjoy the many and varied food and entertainment options!!! PDX truly represents the region when it comes to airport dining - in fact the most recent expansion had such demand from top-notch local chefs that several VERY popular and talented folks were refused. It's actually now the only place you can get Country Cat's fried chicken since the original resto closed but they kept their PDX one open! Blue Star donuts - arguably the best artisanal donuts in the city, which means also among the best in the world - are far better quality than the ridiculously over-the-top creations of VooDoo who still get most of the press downtown (you'll see a sea of pink VooDoo boxes being carried onto the flight to Vancouver; anyone else you see with a Blue Star box will exchange a knowing eye-roll and glance at them with you). Art and live music performers change regularly, and there's even a cinema screening short movies about the PNW. The website is pretty informative, right down to little videos to guide you around the map. And given that your only other likely routing option is via SEA (blech!!!!) unless you want a two-stop route, it should be real no-brainer decision in terms of actual-airport-itself annoyance minimization.
  17. I hope you enjoy both hotels Kellie, and your cruise in-between. If you're looking to squeeze a few bucks extra value from the food budget to make up for the pricier stay at Auberge, it's not just handy for the pier but also <200yards away from Moose's Down Under (a fun Aussie bar, with a good value brekky and dinner menu - including of course kangaroo in various forms, including the possibly-unique 'roo'tine Poutine!) and even closer to Scoozis if you want something just a wee bit fancier for brekky that's still an awful lot cheaper than your hotel. You'll also walk right past Timmy's on the way to the pier, if you want to go full-on Canadian.
  18. The info you got from your initial question already is correct Jim; you are not flying in therefore no eTA needed. Rules have not changed - you can fly OUT of Canada, or fly around domestically, just fine without one and arriving by sea or land also does not need one. The link I provided above remains the definitive place to get answers about eTAs - and for your convenience it says (in respect of UK citizens and other visa-exempt travelers) that: "These travellers do not need an eTA when arriving by car, bus, train or boat (including a cruise ship). "
  19. While there are whales around until late October, the whale-watching season seems to run down early Oct for most companies in most years. The good news is whatever whales are still around will have well-known habits late in the season, so finding them is easy - but Oct 21 is pushing it. I'd try calling or emailing all the St Andrews whale-watch companies to see when their schedule ends this year - they're all listed here. I'd book it independently if at all; that will save you a fortune based on the markup I've seen applied by other cruiselines to the actual cost of a whalewatch out of St Andrews! Even one person could rent a car and likely save money, 2+ just bring bigger & bigger savings. If they are still operating, you might end up on the same boat that your fellow cruisers are using but having paid a tiny fraction of what they've been screwed out of. I've even seen some cruise tour profit margins padded further by adding an adoption certificate for a Right Whale - charging a hundred bucks a pop when you can get them direct from the organization issuing them for US$30!
  20. Common? No, but it's certainly not unknown - the fixed rate fares have seriously reduced the potential for abuse since they came in though. At the airport, you'll pay CAD$36 to get to the pier - there should be a map hanging on the back of the front passenger seat showing the zones, but if it's not there it will have been 'forgotten' about and be in the drivers bag or 'have fallen under the seat' no doubt. But basically if you 'remind' them that it's fixed rate fares from YVR they will comply. From port to airport it's metered by law, should average to the same as inbound but of course your particular trip might be a little less or more - the 'runaround' long trip might happen but on cruise days it's more profitable to just get you there ASAP so they can then pick up another cruiser at the airport and lather, rinse, repeat. Just ask whether Oak or Cambie have better traffic today when you get into the cab at the pier, showing you know the two main routes (and due to bridge locations, the only two sensible routes from the downtown core) and the driver should then avoid any temptation to take you on a sightseeing tour.
  21. October you'll still be plenty good for whales - the peak migration only gets back down to Oregon about Christmas, that's when one of our coastal whalewatch weeks happens and tons of folks help count the number of migrating whales. They get there before the first cruise ship and stay well past the last one - whales are super-tourist-friendly that way 😉 Eagles should still be ten a penny, as they don't usually start heading down Vancouverwards until late October/November (the Fraser Valley Eagle Festival is mid-Nov, when the largest gathering of baldies on the planet occurs as the numbers drifting down from Alaska start to peak). Bears if seen should be nice & fat but October is when most of them start hibernating - early Oct there will likely still be some out & about but finding them is much more challenging after the big salmon runs are done so I wouldn't count on much quality in-the-wild sighting (Fortress of the Bear in Sitka, and Grouse Mountain right outside Vancouver, have captive bears and the latter consistently hibernate in November). Tourist fishing usually = small boats on the ocean so while no doubt there would be folks happy to get a charter, the weather is more likely to be problematic that late in the season - you can probably book trips but should pencil in alternative plans. The train you should be good on - it shuts Oct 3 this year and passenger numbers are a bigger deal than weather, and the last couple of days are just one NCL ship this season too (Joy/Jewel). Logically that means they'll likely stay open for Sun/Bliss next year into early Oct. Same deal for gold panning etc., once the cruise ships stop coming in there's very little other tourism so anything that needs more than modest numbers to operate is going to wind down - but if one ship fills enough seats on buses they'll still run these tours that are close to and in each town (so your Red Onion saloons and the like should still be open). Sitka and especially Juneau are 'real' towns so there will still be plenty of stuff going on, government doesn't shut when the cruise ships leave 😉 Personally I'd check to see if they're doing a similar trip the other way in May to open the season - MUCH longer days, nicer weather - but if it's the right price I wouldn't have any problem doing that trip in Oct. I've done Princess Cali Coastals that went after AK season stopped, and while you have a chance Astoria will be skipped (the Columbia Bar is a scary bit of water especially storm season) that's also true pretty much any time of year coastals are on offer. San Diego and Sitka on the same itinerary is very tempting!!!
  22. As long as you're AB&Bing with eyes open, all good - a lot of folks remain unaware of our local issues with them so I err on the side of over-informing! PP has been confirmed accepting non-guest bags every cruise season for going on a decade (probably longer, I just didn't live here before that) including this one. While it's always possible they might change their policies I think they would have done so early this season if they were ever going to as the pier had no official storage at all for a good couple of months and so the volume of bags they were getting would have been highest - CDS office never opened at all this season (they still operate at the airport, but you can't use their 'pier to airport' bag transfer service any more when they've abandoned pier operations) but they were still claiming that they were going to well into May, and WestCoast I think only opened very late June. Just in case the PP does refuse you, here's a direct link to the info sheet that confirms WestCoast prices & operating hours; there's other useful info on the port website too.
  23. There are whales in the Bay of Fundy area until well into October and even later - and they would need to swim out through the Gulf of Maine, most likely angling toward Boston as there are other feeding grounds along that path (hence whalewatching trips from Boston and nearby) so trips out of Bar Harbor should be pretty much as good late Sep as they are in July/August. Not familiar with companies/guarantees in BH, but you will find some guarantees out of St Andrews (cruise stop Saint John, NB) so if you are also visiting there and could swap your excursions around you might be able to improve your chances even more.
  24. Yup, PP is much cheaper than the official storage (now run by WestCoast, one of the major local coachlines - if you plan to take one of their HOHO tours then they cut the price of storing your bags though, so potentially worthwhile using them depending on your plans). And while it may be too late, AirBnBs remain problematic in Vancouver - even though they have in theory been legal for about a year now, if it's a 'whole home' rental of a condo unit it's most likely not legal due to the restrictions of the licensing. If it's a house in the 'burbs those are usually OK; just one room inside any home should also be legit, but if it's a condo please ask the owner to verify that they are compliant with both local city legislation AND their own Strata rules (most downtown condos now ban short-term rentals completely). Any Host with 2+ listings, or a single listing for 6 months or more of the year, remains 100% illegal and could get shut down at any time by local enforcement office leaving you with nowhere to stay!!!
  25. Simply because it's too much hassle to arrange a special immigration & customs experience for you to leave the ship in a port that doesn't normally provide this. Of course you CAN just walk off whenever you like with all your stuff - if the ship crew tries to stop you that would be wrongful arrest regardless of your citizenship (assuming you have settled your bills before leaving!) - but then you will face the problem that you may not be legally entering Canada appropriately (while you will do Immigration at your Port of Entry, whether this is Saint John or a prior port, you may not be square on your Customs declarations as the expectation is either to do this at the end if it finishes in Canada or not even bother if it's a RT cruise ending in a US port). Otherwise next time you try to cross the Canadian border you'll be in for an unpleasant surprise, involving at the very least a delay and extra questions while your story is checked out and at worst being denied entry - US citizens have absolutely zero guaranteed right of of free passage into Canada ever I'm afraid, like every sovereign country only Canadian citizens must be allowed home. Secondly you're breaking your agreement with the cruise line (read your contract) - any costs they incur to deal with the extra paperwork etc. can be passed along to you, they can blackball you from ever cruising with them again. If this is a RT cruise, your leaving also means the passenger manifest is different on return as it was on departure - so this means additional scrutiny by CBP which may delay all your fellow pax on arrival back to the USA as the 'closed loop' has a crack in it. So basically if this is a real emergency, of course you just settle your tab and leave the ship - making sure to check with the port authority whether you need to speak to CBSA about anything before you just wander off. If it's a dying relative type situation, I'm sure both the authorities and cruise line will be sympathetic and you should have minimal trouble. NB: there is no Saint Johns. You're either talking about St Johns, Newfoundland or Saint John New Brunswick (they are ALWAYS written that way, contraction/plural and full/singular, precisely to avoid confusion) and the availability of flights home will be quite different in both (you can drive elsewhere in Canada or over the border from NB in a rental to access way more airports, but NF is an island with relatively low flight numbers and only a small number of ferries as alternatives to get you elsewhere). If it's St Johns NF then honestly I'd recommend cancelling the cruise if you MUST be home quickly because it could be a major hassle getting anywhere fast out of there... Edit - whoops, some redundant info as 1025 beat me to the punch.
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